Monday, March 14, 2005

Bankruptcy Bill: War On (Non-Wealthy) Americans

A lot is being written these days about the Bankruptcy Bill, which is moving through Congress like greasy fecal matter through a dyspeptic Canadian honker right now. Cynthia Tucker spells out just why it's such a bad deal, and below I'm printing a letter to editor of Salon that my good friend Teresa sent after reading Arianna Huffington's column there last week. (Speaking of Salon, Tom Tomorrow's cartoon today touches on this same subject.)

Here is Teresa's take:

"I had significant credit card debt, incurred by graduate school expenses, the sudden death of a parent and my subsequent responsibilities toward my surviving parent, and by various other emergencies and personal expenses over a ten year period.

Last month, I cashed in my 401(k), built up over years of hard and steady work, to pay off most of my debt. I did this the day I received a notice from a credit card company informing me that, for no reason other than a whim on their part, my interest would skyrocket to 29.9%.

I never missed a payment. I never went over my limit. I always paid more than the minimum. My 'reward' for being a responsible credit card user? An interest rate that would have made it statistically impossible for me to ever repay the debt!

This is a hard-learned lesson on my part, and a costly one. But the satisfaction I have in telling those credit weasels to go take a flying leap has been worth every penny. They'll never make another dime of interest from me. My new motto: I'll do without.

I can only encourage every American citizen who can follow my example to do so. Perhaps when the profits of these companies diminish, they will learn their own costly lesson."

Would that all of us could follow Teresa's example (not by losing our 401[k]s, but by paying off our credit card debt). I've done it myself, at much expense and thanks mainly to the capriciousness of the stock market and my good fortune at being gainfully employed and able to take advantage of the employees' stock purchase plan here at work. I know exactly how good it feels to have that burden off my shoulders -- but I also know just how easy it is to get caught in the credit trap, and suddenly finding yourself facing the prospect of making the minimum payment every month for the next 800 years to try to get out from under. Many of us are just one job loss or spousal loss or medical catastrophe from being on the wrong end of those 30% interest rates, and for Congress to grease the wheels underneath us -- while simultaneously giving more tools to the credit industry to institute legal usury -- is simply unconscionable. Bad enough that the Republicans all voted in lockstep for it -- those of us in the reality-based community have come to expect that sort of cavalier attitude and heartlessness to lower- and middle-income Americans from that lot -- but for some Senate Democrats to join them in this indefensible slap in the face is just shameful. Democrats should stand for better than that. The votes of Sens. Biden, Reid, Nelson, Salazar, et al, illustrate precisely how much they value their corporate whoremasters contributors over the needs of their constituents, and I hope that all voters out there remember whose side they were on when the next election comes around.
Free Counter
Online Universities